Training Sleep

Annah Elizabeth Leave a Comment

Two nights ago, I trudged up to bed about half-past midnight. Normally, I fluff my pillow beneath my head, lie back, and proceed to fall asleep. Instantly. On this night, however, I couldn’t turn my mind off of from a few unnerving thoughts.

One teenager is half-way across the country, “just doing his thing,” with a female friend whom he claims he isn’t dating. Another long distance connection, and I wondering if he doesn’t have some misguided conflict about relationships, especially given the turmoil that has existed in his parent’s married life. Infidelity is far reaching, that’s for sure…

Another teenager faces her senior year, college and courtship angst, and the ever present adolescent anxiety. And I wonder, have I instilled in her enough confidence, despite the typical teen and female insecurities? Have I done an adequate job as Mom, despite my own lack of confidence? One more year and she will be on her own, away from home. Have I prepared her well enough? And on this particular night when I couldn’t sleep, a different sort of worry after she and her friend asked to sleep in the camper. Moms and dads across America will relate, Will we be receiving male company in the middle of the night?

My mind raced. I put on a robe, grabbed a flashlight, and headed to the great outdoors, under the guise of saying goodnight and asking if the girls needed anything at 1:30 in the morning. Satisfied we didn’t have any unknown house guests, I returned to my bed, where my mind continued to ramble.

And then, shortly before two, I remembered the beach. It’s been years since I’ve had to employ the meditation technique. Some fifteen years ago, when my life was filled with conflict beyond my coping skills, it would take me hours to fall asleep, at times.

One night I remembered hearing that thinking about a relaxing place helps invite sleep. But my mind kept wondering. So I implemented the cue, “the beach,” to draw my focus back to my restful place. I’d imagine myself sitting down in the sand, burying my toes into the warm granuals, and conjure an image of the rolling water. I made it a priority to remember the practice each night, to be conscious of my wandering, fretting mind, and to employ the prompt.

As the days and weeks passed by, my practice paid off and I found I could turn off the rambling thoughts and initiate sleep much more quickly. Eventually, I had perfected the mediation so well that I could hear the ocean waves rolling in, and on cold nights, I could actually will my feet to warm as I envisioned tucking them into the sand.

Years later, someone told me that what I’d been doing was practicing self-meditation. No formal guidance is needed, just simple dedication to your goal. And I’ve since talked with many people who use this same strategy. One woman I met goes to a lush field she played in as a child. Others fish, swim, lie in the sun…

Do you have a special place you can retreat to when your sleep doesn’t come? Try it. Think of a place, Create a word cue. Then practice seeing the area, hearing the sounds, and being in the space. Each time your mind drifts back into the chaos that’s keeping you awake, call upon the signal… Sweet dreams are only a place away…

Speaking of slumber, it’s time for me to turn in…

Soon…

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